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East Tenn. man faces murder charge in death of boy whose remains were found buried behind Halls home

According to reports, Gray Jr. was booked into jail on an indictment for felony murder. Gray’s bond is set at $500,000.
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 7:26 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Michael Anthony Gray Jr., the son of an East Tennessee couple who were indicted on murder and kidnapping charges after a child’s body was found buried at a Roane Co. home, was booked into a Knox County jail Thursday morning.

Gray Jr. is the son of Michael Anthony Gray Sr. and Shirley Gray, the couple charged in the death of their adopted daughter in Roane County.

According to reports, Gray Jr. was booked into jail on an indictment for 20 counts including, first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, child neglect and abuse of a corpse. Gray’s bond is set at $500,000.

The Gray’s 11-year-old adopted daughter was discovered buried in the backyard of their Roane County residence located on the 1000 block of Drive Fort Valley Road on May 22. Officials say the body had been buried there since 2017. Shortly after, the body of a young boy, Jonathan Gray, was found buried behind the home in Halls.

The Halls home belonged to Gray Jr. and his partner. Authorities said the Grays' children endured abuse and lived in “deplorable conditions,” at the Halls home.

Court documents stated, Gray Jr. “did unlawfully kill Jonathan Dalton Gray,” during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect and aggravated child abuse.

Gray Jr. is accused of treating the child, “in a manner that was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel or involved the infliction of torture to the victim.”

According to court documents, Gray Jr. "did knowingly and other than by accidental means, treat Jonathan Dalton Gray, a child eight (8) years of age or less, in a manner that did result in serious bodily injury.

The charges against Gray Jr. include the, “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel” treatment and “infliction of torture” on three other children.

Gray Jr. is also accused of wilfully providing a “false statement, representation, or impersonation” regarding medical assistance benefits. According to court records, Gray Jr. allegedly unlawfully obtained medical assistance benefits by means of deception, fraud, and/or coercion over the value of $500 and obtained adoption benefits of at least $10,000.

On Monday, Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray both pleaded not guilty on all charges, including murder and kidnapping charges. The two are set to appear in court again on Dec. 18.

The senior Grays allegedly confined their young daughter to a basement for months and fed her nothing but bread and water before she died. The child was found buried near a pole barn on the property, according to officials.

Michael Anthony Gray and Shirley Gray bought the home on the 1000 block of Drive Fort Valley Road in Roane County on June 13, 2016. The two moved into the home with their 4 children, a 15-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl, a 13-year-old girl, and a 10-year-old boy.

Within one month of moving in, officials said the eldest son was confined to the basement for stealing fruit from the pantry and fridge. Investigators determined he had been confined to the basement in 2016 with no contact with anyone outside the basement until officials removed him on May 22, 2020.

During the search of the home, authorities said Michael Anthony Gray revealed a small concrete room built under the stairs where two of the children had been kept for punishment. The room allegedly had no running water and no electricity.

Court records stated a bucket inside the small room was filled with human feces and magazine pages used for wiping.

Records stated the house was filled with a urine smell, with human and animal feces throughout the home, on the walls, and a bed. The judge said a part of the basement was flooded with old trash scattered throughout, with no running water and exposed wires.

Shirley Gray completed paperwork stating that all children were currently meeting all their home school assessments, despite the fact that one child was dead and other children were locked in the basement.

Officials said all the children appeared to be stunted in growth and lacked the necessary education for their age.

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